In ancient China it was the custom of families to send promising students to study with leaned Monks or wise teachers to advance their education. There was one such revered teacher at a monastery in a province many years ago.
He had a group of students who had been living at the monastery for almost five years and the Master decided to test them to discover what they had retained and who among them showed promise to continue and learn more advanced concepts and techniques. He announced to the class that the following day they would have and exam that would last two hours and would cover all of the knowledge taught in the previous years.
The next day the students arrived bright and early and there was much excitement in the room as the students were eager to impress their Master who they respected and loved very much. They settled in at there places and prepared their scrolls, brushes and ink awaiting the start of the exam. The Master entered the hall and took his place at the front and announced, “You have two hours to share all that you have learned studying with me.”
Most of the students began to prepare their thoughts and write. Some furiously ‘wrote’ by painting the Chinese characters at a quick pace, others toiled steadily and more relaxed, and one sat with eyes closed with a calm smile on his face. Within an hour some students began to notice the one student seemingly doing nothing. The Master announced, “One hour more.” And the students continued their work with only the one student unperturbed sitting relaxed and smiling.
Finally the Master announced, “Five more minutes.” The student finally opened his eyes, took a deep breath and reached for his brush to write on his scroll. The Revered Teacher declared “No more time. Please bring me your materials.” When the smiling student handed the Master his scroll, the Head Monk looked at it immediately. On it were only two Chinese symbols. Since I don’t write or read Chinese, and probably neither do you. I will write the translation: INHALE EXHALE
That student later became a revered Emperor of China.
Breathing is the key to life. Whether practicing Yoga and breathing in Prana, or Qi Gong breathing in Qi. It is all the same and we do not function well without this simple act that we start right at birth when we are assisted out from mother by a midwife, nurse or doctor and given a pat to inspire our first breath. In fact if you look in a dictionary (or Google it) the term used in medicine and science for inhalation is INSPIRATION.
Some of the Masters and Teachers that I have studied with have some different ideas on Breathing that I would like to share with you now. There are others, but these might stimulate your thoughts and practice towards you own discoveries:
Roger Jahnke has teaches that – “The process of inhaling and exhaling fully and deeply creates gentle pressure changes throughout your body that can be used to internally ‘massage’ and stimulate your inner organs. You can direct your breath to improve the condition of any organ. Where thought goes Qi flows.” Yang Jwing Ming calls the Qi Gong breath not just ‘abdominal breathing’ as in Yoga, but takes it a step further and calls it LOWER DANTIEN Breathing. The Lower Dantien is the area below the navel to the perenium and includes the entire pelvis and organs held inside. It is our connection with the Earth Qi and is our vitality center. The joints of this area, if we cultivate flexibility and relaxation can expand and relax with our inhalation and exhalation. You can cultivate this condition and improve your well being and groundedness. Ken Cohen teaches the slight movement of the sacrum moving back with each inhalation. Andrew Nugent Head recommends that we relax our forearms so that they contact the sides of your hips when relaxing with hands on Lower DanTien during meditation, contemplation or while resting between Qi Gong movements. You will feel your pelvis expand and contract with the breath and as you massage your organs. So play with your breath and see what you discover. I have ‘understood’ these concepts for periods of time without actually feeling them. Practice is the only way to get it. I actually made some of these concepts ‘real’ and started to own them while sitting on the beach. I was very relaxed early in the morning and had just practiced several forms of Qi Gong and decided to sit and look at the ocean. When you are standing, you pelvis and Lower DanTian supports your body’s weight in a different way than when sitting cross legged. The weight of your upper torso, and relaxation of your muscles, allows the pelvis to spread and relax. ( think of a balloon filled with water – we all have played with water balloons haven’t you? Well if you fill it up it has one shape, but when you put it on the ground or a table it spreads a bit) Your pelvis is like that too if you simply take time to be aware and notice. Play with it.
Breathing mindfully is a simple and effective way to instantly acclimate yourself to the world around you. It will calm your heart/mind and will restore equilibrium when things are stressful and it can be practiced at any time in any position. You can do it while lying in bed, sitting in your car at a red light, or even in the midst of a disagreement or argument.
Keep doing it. Don’t stop. Not breathing may be detrimental to your health.
Good Qi to all!